Susquehanna River Basin Commission Awards RCAP Solutions $454,522 for Water Loss Prevention and Assistance

RCAP Solutions is pleased to have been awarded a $454,522 grant from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission!

This funding will be used to provide technical assistance and training to small water utilities in Centre County, #Pennsylvania on water auditing and leakage prevention. Utilities will learn water loss techniques, helping them conserve large volumes of water, enabling them to be more financially resilient and environmentally sustainable.

Check out the full press release here.

Open for Business Impact – Ethos Rehabilitation

Written By: Madison Wellman, Business Opportunity Specialist

Background: Jimmy Kakouris is a trained physical therapist from Boylston, Massachusetts. After years of experience in the field, Mr. Kakouris decided to open his own physical therapy practice, Ethos Rehabilitation. He approached Workers’ Credit Union – a partner in RCAP’s Open for Business Program – for start-up financing, but the business loan officers at the credit union did not have confidence in his plan. Instead of simply denying Mr. Kakouris financing, they referred him to RCAP to refine his business model.

The Challenge: Rural communities across the United States share a sense of underdeveloped entrepreneurial capacity. Lack of educational opportunities, poor connectivity infrastructure and a general absence of human capital capable of providing mentorship and expertise in the community all contribute to the high business failure rate in our nations small towns and villages. RCAP is striving to surmount these obstacles by delivering the absent human capital to rural communities in a cost-effective manner. In meeting this challenge, RCAP is building permanent entrepreneurial capacity in rural America.

The Approach & Solution: To rise to the challenge, RCAP launched the Open for Business program. The program delivers business expertise to rural communities through webinars, online workshops and one-on-one business consultations made available to entrepreneurs at no cost. All services are delivered remotely to reduce cost and maximize geographic reach. Jimmy Kakouris utilized this program to receive free guidance from RCAP’s experienced consultants. The RCAP consulting team worked with Mr. Kakouris to develop his business plan and financial projections to model his path to success. At the time of this writing, Mr. Kakouris received twenty-two hours of one-on-one consulting assistance.

Impact: RCAP’s professional consulting team was able to determine through financial modeling that Mr. Kakouris’ initial plan was not feasible. Specifically, the space that Mr. Kakouris wanted to lease for his physical therapy practice, while well-suited to the purpose, was far too expensive. Using IBUS data, the RCAP consulting team was able to model the revenues that Mr. Kakouris’ practice could expect in his market area. This financial model determined that Mr. Kakouris’ business would become insolvent in a matter of months – just as his lender feared. Once the initial plan was cast aside, Mr. Kakouris was able to work with the RCAP consulting team to develop a new strategy.

Today, Mr. Kakouris has a business plan that will provide a return on his investment, a budget for leased space that is appropriate for the Boylston, Massachusetts area, data-driven projections for his lenders and a professional marketing strategy – all of which cost him nothing but his time. If not for RCAP’s Open for Business Program, Mr. Kakouris would have never received financing, or worse, taken on debt for a plan that would have only succeeded in bankrupting him. In the case of Jimmy Kakouris and many other entrepreneurs around the country, bringing human capital to bear meant the difference between failure and success.

Testimonial – Borough of Midland, Pennsylvania

Check out this testimonial from the Borough of Midland, Pennsylvania!

Our team in the Keystone State has been working this community to improve their water and sewer infrastructure through GIS mapping, application assistance for funding programs, and more.

Midland is a small, rural community located on the edge of western Pennsylvania. A former manufacturing giant, the borough has been attempting to drive small businesses back to the area in the wake of their steel mill’s closure, which once played a major part in Midland’s economy and workforce.

The consultant for the authority, Brigid Darbut, has been working with RCAP Solutions as well as several other community organizations and leaders to introduce revitalization efforts in the town, not only through improved water infrastructure, but through economic development, shared services, and more.

Juncos’ Landfill Repairs and Expansion After Hurricane Maria

Written By: Edwin Vázquez-Asencio, Sustainable Materials Management Specialist

Juncos municipality is in the eastern central region of Puerto Rico. Juncos’ landfill receives approximately 35,105 tons of non-hazardous solid waste each year. In 2017, winds from Hurricane Maria destroyed the facility’s leachate collection system, creating a serious health and safety hazard for neighboring communities and was at risk of contaminating underground water resources and nearby streams. The storm’s effects also reduced the landfill’s capacity by 20% and severely reduced its predicted lifespan.

The main challenge was to define the project and determine how the municipality could finance the necessary repairs that were imperative to address this problem. Our goal was to protect the community’s health, assist them in achieving compliance, and support the transition of the facility into a sanitary landfill system. In addition, the community also needed to account for the capacity overflow due to the extraordinary amount of debris which the landfill received in the aftermath of the disaster.

The RCAP Solutions staff served as a fundamental liaison between the municipality, stakeholders, and USDA Rural Development as we assisted the municipality in achieving compliance. Our technical assistance provider coordinated and conducted a training about disaster assistance grant funding and guided them throughout the process, outlining key elements to completing a successful application for USDA funds.

USDA Rural Development awarded Juncos’ Municipality with $23.7 million in grant funding to repair its landfill facilities. The facilities will be expanded to achieve compliance, and in addition, the community’s health will no longer be at risk due to the damage caused by the hurricane.

Five-Year Coral Bay Watershed Management Plan Released

The Coral Bay Community Council (CBCC), a non-profit organization which helps communities in the U.S. Virgin Islands with environmental issues, recently released their 2021 Watershed Management Plan, a detailed 5-year outline for the future management of their stormwater and drinking water supply.

The plan is the result of over two years of work by Watershed Consulting Associates, CBCC, local residents, government agencies, and various other community development organizations.

In the wake of the destruction caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, and the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the residents of Coral Bay will benefit from this plan, which incorporates professional analysis and stakeholder input to create a shared vision to address threats to water quality in and around the area.

The full plan can be viewed bewlow or at www.coralbaycommunitycouncil.org, along with an accompanying shorter, “Community Handbook” version.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information, check out CBCC’s press release, here.

RCAP Solutions is a long-time collaborator of CBCC. In addition to contributions made to support this plan, our team in the Caribbean has a extensive history of partnering with the council to provide vital education to industry professionals as well as residents surrounding drinking water, wastewater, and solid waste management.

RCAP Solutions Hires Business Opportunity Specialist

RCAP Solutions is pleased to announce the addition of Madison Wellman as Business Opportunity Specialist, managing the Open for Business program, a new economic development initiative providing support to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Mr. Wellman comes to RCAP Solutions with a diverse background in economic development, nonprofit management, sales, research, and communications. He has experience working in the political arena, as well as with small business startups, which provides him with a unique understanding of diverse business and community challenges.

Wellman served as the Regional Representative for Congressman Antonio Delgado in Oneonta, NY and Delhi, NY, where he worked closely with constituents from diverse backgrounds, including both nonprofit and for-profit enterprises, and municipal government officials. In this role, he met with project stakeholders to discuss issues such as funding resources, grant opportunities, small business concerns, and agricultural issues. He also has experience launching new offices with Bright Drive Healthcare Solutions, where he identified suitable offices spaces, negotiated with realtors and property owners, and addressed other logistical start up challenges. Prior to this, he managed economic development projects at the town and county level for both Schoharie County and the Town of Schoharie, NY. Wellman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in International Business and Economics from Canisius College of Buffalo, NY.

The Open for Business program is funded by Wells Fargo and offers self-guided online workshops, monthly webinars, and one-on-one consulting. This program offers education on a wide-variety of business concepts and caters to the specific needs of many rural, disadvantaged, and minority-owned small businesses. Topics include business law, business planning, marketing, financing, and accounting. These services are provided at no cost, in both English and Spanish, and are coordinated by our national affiliate, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), to provide services to small businesses across the country. RCAP Solutions services the Northeast and Caribbean regions.

“Mr. Wellman is a great complement to our team,” said Jenna Day, RCAP Solutions Director of Community Resources. “His understanding of rural community needs, paired with his legislative work and small business experience makes him the ideal person to support the small business community. The addition of the Open for Business program to our suite of services further expands our ability to support the economic development needs of rural communities in the northeast and Caribbean regions. The wide variety of resources, customized to cater to small business entrepreneurs, provides tremendous opportunity for underserved communities, and those who live and work there, to grow, thrive and cultivate stronger communities.”

RCAP Solutions’ Community Resources staff works hand in hand with community leaders and homeowners to incorporate the best tools and resources suited to protect public health and the environment while progressing towards financial sustainability and improved quality of life.

For additional information about the Open for Business Program, please contact Madison Wellman, Business Opportunity Specialist at: (774) 239-9783, mwellman@rcapsolutions.org or visit: www.rcapsolutions.org/open-for-business/.

About RCAP Solutions:
RCAP Solutions is an integrated community development corporation working with a multi-faceted suite of services in communities throughout the northeastern part of the U.S. and the Caribbean. Established in 1969, RCAP Solutions’ mission is to foster personal and public self-reliance and improve the quality of life for individuals, families, and the communities in which they live. For more information, please visit www.rcapsolutions.org.

RCAP Solutions Hires Deputy Director of Community Resources

RCAP Solutions is pleased to announce the promotion of Mark Johnson to Deputy Director of Community Resources.

“As someone who knows something about the job Mark is about to tackle, I can say that the most important skill required is the ability to be flexible and consider the big picture when making decisions”, said Jenna Day, Director of Community Resources, “I have confidence in his ability to carry the role of Deputy Director with ease. Mark respects others’ opinions and is comfortable in sharing his knowledge and experience. I look forward to having his assistance shaping the future of RCAP Solutions’ work throughout the Northeast and Caribbean.”

Mr. Johnson received his Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. Johnson’s promotion comes after serving six years at the organization as Vermont State Lead.

Johnson has over 20 years of experience in the drinking water field. Prior to joining RCAP, he worked as a water quality engineer at a large, investor-owned water utility in California and before that as a water operator for a small municipal utility in Maine. In his previous role as Vermont State Lead, Mr. Johnson acted as the primary liaison to state primacy agencies and funding officials and provided direct technical assistance to small water and wastewater systems.

“Being able to work directly with Vermont communities on challenging water and wastewater issues has provided me with some of the most rewarding experiences of my career” said Johnson, “RCAP Solutions continues to broaden its impact yet remain flexible amidst a myriad of challenges being faced by rural America. I’m eager and thankful to have an expanded role in shaping that conversation and supporting the technical assistance providers who dedicate themselves to serving their communities and finding solutions.”

RCAP Solutions’ Community Resources staff works hand in hand with community leaders and homeowners to incorporate the best tools and resources suited to protect public health and the environment while progressing towards financial sustainability and improved quality of life.

About RCAP Solutions:
RCAP Solutions is a thriving integrated community development corporation working with a multi-faceted suite of services and opportunities. Established in 1969, RCAP Solutions’ mission is to foster personal and public self-reliance and improve the quality of life for individuals, families, and the communities in which they live. For more information, please visit www.rcapsolutions.org.

Testimonial – Town of Grafton, Vermont

Check out this testimonial from the chair of Grafton, Vermont’s Water/Wastewater Study Commission!

RCAP Solutions assisted the town in completing two surveys of their drinking water quality and wastewater management. Because the town has no central community system, residents rely entirely on individual water sources and wastewater disposal systems.

Through the Vermont Department of Health, our staff was able to acquire drinking water test kits, at no charge, for residents who rely on private wells. Fortunately, the water tests did not identify any contamination issues.

Nonetheless, RCAP Solutions encouraged the town to take a closer look at high-priority properties throughout the area. The town continues to improve their water and wastewater infrastructure, with RCAP providing strategic guidance and recommendations for state and federal funding opportunities.

This work is made possible because of the generous support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Virtual Math Training

Rebekah Novak, Water Compliance Specialist for Massachusetts, Online Tech Team Lead

Since COVID-19 hit in the early months of 2020, almost all businesses, schools, and government departments were impacted in a very big way; we could not meet face to face anymore. Every business was affected differently. But the show had to go on for essential workers like highway and construction workers, medical field staff, food industry, drinking water operations and wastewater operations. For many of these fields, people must earn contact hours/credits/education credits for the license they hold by taking classes to stay educated and informed. But with the limitations on in-person meetings, and how many people are allowed in a room, how are these license holders supposed to get the training they need to maintain their licenses? A little leeway was given for those people who had to renew their drivers license, but are Wastewater Operators allowed to to lapse in credits? No. License holders waited to see if they would be given extensions on earning credits but decision makers did not loosen up on the rules. Every person with a Wastewater License in the State of Massachusetts still had to earn 20 Total Contact Hours (TCHs) by the same deadline as before COVID.

For the first few months of the “lock-down” people just figured they had a whole year ahead of them to earn credits, but as the months passed, the clock kept counting down, yet the states did not open up. Luckily, some organizations adapted and learned a new platform: virtual training. RCAP Solutions was one of those organizations that jumped right into virtual training as soon as they saw there was no end it sight to the shutdowns. Wanting to keep their staff members as well as the public safe at home or in the office, RCAP Solutions decided if they couldn’t bring people to their training, they would bring their training to the people, virtually.
Once the virtual platform was learned, the PowerPoint presentations were then altered to a friendlier format for virtual learning. The first session to go online was Basic Math for Operators. This course is intended to help both existing operators brush up on their math skills, (while earning credits) but also to help future operators prepare to pass the exam, by learning about the basic math concepts that are applied every day on the job (and it the exam).

Teaching Math in person is not all that easy but teaching it virtually made for some additional difficulties. RCAP does not typically use webcams because most clients/attendees do not have a strong internet connection and the webcams use too much bandwidth. So how do you know if your attendees are understanding the concepts you are teaching without being able to SEE them? There are several tools to use to make sure the attendees are paying attention and keeping up with you on the other side of that computer screen:

1. PowerPoint/Presentation visuals:
a. use more animation than in person slides to make the slides more interesting. The attendees have little else to look at and many distractions within an arm’s reach.
b. Use less words on each slide. Too much reading on a computer screen is tiresome, so add more pictures to convey the ideas that are discussed.

2. Virtual Interactive tools:
a. Polls: gather information or beliefs about attendees. ASK how the pace of the class is, or if they understand the topic at hand.
b. Tests: quiz attendees on covered topics to keep them engaged, and to get an idea of how well they understand that topic.
c. Virtual hand raising: ask yes/no questions or invite attendees to ask questions
d. Virtual group work: create a sense of community and work together to complete an activity
e. Chat box: ask attendees to answer your questions in the chat box. Ask them to ask questions of their own in the chat box. Get people comfortable with the chat box right away, ask icebreaker questions to get them warmed up to it.
f. Evaluation: break your evaluations down by topic, so they can be rated individually. Ask attendees to rate the platform, or each of the tools separately to see how effective they were. Ask for suggestions to make the training session better.

3. Voice:
a. Inflection: Work on your presentation voice. Try to use inflections, making your voice pitch go up and down to signify important words, grammar, or the end of sentences. Monotone voices are hard to listen to for long periods of time.
b. Quality: Be sure the quality of your audio is good. Use a headset or a microphone so your audience only hears your voice. Tinny or muffled voices are hard to understand.

4. Technical assistance: One of the most important tools to have ready is technical assistance. Some people run into issues and if they have never used online training before, they will need some help to navigate, or else, they will most likely give up and sign off. Have an extra person or two who can help individuals solve their technical issues, like connecting to audio in the beginning of a training.
Are you a License holder looking for more virtual training? Sign up for the email lists of your local associations or memberships. Express your interest in learning about a certain topic to a virtual trainer that puts on multiple sessions a year.

Are you a committee member/government official/association looking to present topics to a certain audience but do not have a way to do so? Talk to someone who recently put on a training to see if they will host your topics. Or see if they know of others who simply “host” presentations on their platform license.

Virtual trainings and presentations can be intimidating, but with the right tools and a little preparation, they can be as effective as a face to face meeting. As an added bonus, they are incredibly attractive for busy people, cut down on travel time and expenses, and promote safe learning and communications during this challenging time.

Case Study: Midland Water and Sewer Authority, PA

By Wanda Rios Martinez, Water Compliance Specialist

Midland is a small town located in Beaver County, PA. The town has their own water and sewer treatment plants. Midland Water Authority stared operations in 1907. Midland mill began operating as a stainless-steel facility the following year. The mill closed in 2016. Today the Authority services Midland Borough, Shippingport Borough and small industries with water and sewer.

The Need and RCAP’s Assistance:
Midland Borough is having financial issues. Since the mill closed operations the plant is oversized in relation to the amount of water it treats. There is concern about depreciation and state of deterioration on the part of Midland Water and Sewer. The borough needs to replace all the electrical wires/panels and bar screen. Also, they wanted to close some dead ends in the distribution system to improve the quality of the water. The maps were very old and hard to read and understand.

RCAP assisted enrolling Midland in the RD Apply system, followed the application process, and provided long distance assistance to the borough. In addition, RCAP provided GIS mapping for the distribution system. Since the borough is going to make updates at the water system and the supervisor is retiring in less than a year it was very important that the system have updated maps. Such maps include a booster of a new section of the distribution system, pump stations and Shippingport line. RCAP was able to verify and confirm the locations of the assets with the operator.

Results:
Midland Water Authority received assistance with USDA application, which should increase the financial and managerial capacity. The borough has new and accurate maps with information about hydrants, hydrants valves, booster house, water feed stations and water valves in the main line. Clear pictures tell a better story of the system status.

See full case study here: Midland Water and Sewer PA